Carry On Camping
Previously we focussed on this post about camping essentials – tents and camp beds. Here in our second part of “Carry on Camping” we take a look at more creature comforts for campers.
First-time campers could spend a fortune kitting themselves out with every camping accessory on the market to make their trip more comfortable — but that would defeat the purpose for many of choosing a budget holiday. After choosing your tent and camp bed, what are the really essential gadgets and camping equipment to make your tent a home-from-home without blowing your holiday spending money?
Bedding – Sleeping Bags
For occasional, summer campers there’s no need to spend a fortune on high-tech sleeping bags suitable for Arctic expeditions. But the weather in many parts of Europe is notoriously unpredictable and you have to bear that in mind when you buy your bedding.
Good outdoor living shops have experts on hand to give you advice about the type of sleeping bag you need for the trips you’re planning. Confusingly, different manufacturers use different criteria to determine the temperature ratings of their sleeping bags. It’s safest to err on the side of caution and choose a bag that will be slightly warmer than you’re likely to need – you can always zip it open a bit if it gets too warm.
There’s a choice of two basic shapes:
- ‘Mummy’: generally more expensive, but these pack down to a smaller size, fit your body more snugly and require less energy to keep warm.
- Rectangular (classic): provide more leg room but also take up more space.
If you’re camping as a couple, ask about sleeping bags that can be bought as a pair and then zipped together into one.
You’ll also have a choice of stuffing:
- Natural (such as down): usually more expensive and need more care to maintain their condition, but they pack down nicely.
- Synthetic (such as hollowfibre): usually cheaper but also bulkier, with a lower warmth to weight ratio. If your bedding is likely to get wet, synthetic is the best option.
If you’re not short on space, buy a small camping pillow too. A pile of folded clothes is never as comfortable, and can leave you with a stiff neck.
Lots of campers ditch pots and stoves and opt for eating out at local pubs and restaurants. If you do want to cook back at camp, however, or even make hot drinks, you’ll need some equipment. The basics include a stove, pans, crockery and cutlery, fuel, and a lighter or matches. Don’t forget essentials such as a can opener, cooking oil and washing up liquid. When you buy your stove, consider whether you’ll be carrying it, how many you’re cooking for, and how elaborate you expect your meals to be.
A torch or a lantern that can be hung from the tent will give you hands-free lighting when you need it, and if you choose a torch with a head-band attachment this is handy for nocturnal visits to the toilet. Always pack some spare batteries and a bulb, too.
The little things
Some of the little things that are easy to forget are those that make a camping trip far more enjoyable: a corkscrew or bottle opener, for example, or sugar for your tea and coffee. Never rely on campsite facilities to be well-stocked with toilet roll – take your own. If you’re camping during the summer, pack insect repellent. A few spare plastic bags are also handy, from use as a bin to separating out dirty laundry. A penknife and a roll of gaffer tape will help you mend any tent flysheet or groundsheet tears. If you’re a real pessimist, you could also take a small first aid kit containing tweezers (for splinters or ticks), antiseptic, plasters, bandages, and so on.
And finally, look online for a good camping checklist to adapt for your own trip – it’ll help make sure you don’t forget any of the small things that make a big difference.